SpaceX completed its latest landmark mission on Sunday, successfully sending up the SAOCOM 1A satellite using a Falcon 9 rocket before completing the first landing at a new California land-based pad.
The mission launched the first of two SAtélite Argentino de Observación COn Microonda (SAOCOM) satellites into space. Together with SAOCOM 1B, set to launch next year, the spacecraft will help with disaster relief management in Argentina. The one that launched on Sunday weighs 3,000 kg, utilizes six computers to transmit data over 140 antennas. It cost $500 million, with a seven-year development time involving a team of 600 professionals. It’s the fifth space mission for Argentina.
This was the first mission to utilize SpaceX’s new landing pad. The pad was under construction for around four years, with a slow process in part because the company didn’t need the pad before now. It’s the first one SpaceX has built on the west coast, and it will complement the droneship Just Read the Instructions for landing first stage boosters after missions from the Vandenberg Air Force Base. While it’s easier to collect rockets when they return to land, such landings require more fuel than sea-based missions, meaning SpaceX will likely choose the right tool for the mission depending on the circumstances.
The rocket, a Block 5 used previously for the Iridium 7 mission, cut an impressive figure on the launchpad prior to liftoff at 7:21 p.m. Pacific time:
Blasting off into the night sky, the rocket seared a trail through the darkness in this image shared by CEO Elon Musk:
This image captured the flair as a trail of light left in its wake:
The launch made for a stunning spectacle over the landscape:
Musk also shared this fantastic image of the launch from Teslarati photographer Tom Cross, which looks decidedly out of this world:
The mission made for an impressive blast of colors:
The first stage booster then came in for landing, a procedure that has almost become routine:
SpaceX also managed to get up close and personal during the landing:
The inaugural landing on the California pad was a success:
SpaceX shared another angle from the landing pad via its Flickr account:
SpaceX is set to launch the Es’hail 2 mission sometime in the fourth quarter of this year, delayed back from August. The satellite will provide internet and television services for Qatar and surrounding countries. The mission, which currently has no firm launch date, will launch from the Cape Canaveral pad in Florida.